There are some syndicated cartoons and comic strips, like Peanuts, Garfield, Calvin & Hobbes, that have become so popular, they’ve come out of the newspapers into comic books, not to mention hats, T-shirts and other merchandize.
Here, I want to make a list of some of the best cartoons that are available in comic book form for us to enjoy, all in one place.
In the 1950s and the early 1960s, at the peak of its popularity, Charlie Brown and his friends didn’t appear only in newspapers, but also in comic books like Tip Top and United Comics. Finding syndicated cartoon characters in comic books at the time was a lot less common than they are now. At the time, comic books were dominated by superheroes.
Then came a time when the comic books were no longer newspaper reprints, but original work by writers and artists other than Charles Schultz. UC produced several Peanuts one-shots, and other comic books like Sparkler Comics and Dell also featured it. In all, there may have been over 150 comics produced around the characters.
This immensely popular comic strip written by George Herriman and run in the papers between 1913 and 1944 was a huge influence on the cartoonists that came afterwards. It is surreal, ambiguous (Krazy is referred to as a he and a she in different places) and good old-fashioned slapstick with a timelessness.
Krazy Kat has made it to several comic books since then. There were reprints by Eclipse Comics. The 3-D Zone comic book series of June 1987 also featured converted 3-D reprints.
Comics Review, Pacific Comics Club, Fantagraphics published daily strips and one-shots. Lots of other publishers like Street Enterprises, Real Free Press, Hyperion Press, Kitchen Sink Press, Pacific Comics featured what is probably one of America’s 10 best comic strips.
Li’l Abner was a strip that ran for 43 years. It was the story of a redneck Yokum family holding out in a depraved world. Some of the characters like Sadie Hawkins became so popular that there are Sadie Hawkins Day Dances at many US high schools. The comic was featured in many comic books, such as the United Feature Syndicate anthologies Comics on Parade, Sparkler Comics, Tip Topper Comics etc.
Lil’Abner was also published as reprints by Harvey Comics, Super Publishing, Toby, Oxydol Premium, Kitchen Sink Press, Dark Horse Comics and others.
The Katzenjammer Kids was a comic strip that ran between 1897 and 1979, and it’s still in distrubution by King Features. This makes the comic strip the oldest and longest-running comic strip. It continues to be popular in the Scandinavian countries, where the versions drawn by Harold Knerr have been reprinted in annual comic books since 1911. The comic strip was frequently featured in Playboy in the 70s. The Danish agency PIB published the available material as an annual in The Captain and the Kids comic book. When the material ran out, the agency commissioned another cartoonist to redraw old magazine clippings for the comic book.
One of my favorite strips out of the Golden Age is Walt Kelly’s Pogo. This strip ran from 1948 to 1975. It was one of the more well-balanced comic strips to come out of this time. There was slapstick humor, but also some poetry and profundity. The characters are mostly animals “Pogo is a very intelligent possum” so the strips are popular with kids and adults.
Dell Publishing Company (bought over by Random House) published several comic book titles in the early years, including collections, Four Color Issues etc.
The Comics Journal, the British kids’ magazine Jack and Jill, public services booklets etc. also featured Kelley’s work.
These are the strips I know were very popular in comic books, that have now become collectors’ editions. Do you have any others to add? Let me know below.